Tropical Storm Erika, which formed on the heels of Hurricane Danny Monday, is expected to steadily grow as it bears down on the Caribbean and could become a hurricane in four days, National Hurricane Center forecasters said Tuesday.
The storm, located about 730 miles east of the Leeward Islands at 11 a.m., was moving northwest at about 20 mph with sustained winds of 45 mph. Tropical storm force winds extended 80 miles. As Erika moves over warm waters during the next two days, forecasters expect the storm to slow down and steadily intensify. Erika should arrive in the Leeward Islands by Wednesday night or early Thursday, forecasters said.
But as the storm heads northwest, forecast models begin to differ on Erika’s future.
Forecasters say Erika could become a hurricane in four days. But the same conditions that helped weaken Danny after it became a hurricane Thursday may slow down Erika. Predicting intensity in the next three to five days is less certain than usual, forecasters said, because tracking models are so far split. While one group shows a stronger storm moving to the northwest after about 48 hours, others show a weaker system heading more to the west.
A hurricane hunter plane is scheduled to investigate the storm this afternoon, which could help shed light on whether the storm intensifies.
Early Monday, tropical storm warnings in advance of Erika were issued for much of the Leeward Islands, even as what’s left of Danny continues to drop rain in the region. Most islands in the drought-stricken region welcome the rain — including Puerto Rico which has been gripped by the driest period in the island’s history. But the risk of too much rain has also raised concerns in vulnerable places like Haiti, where mudslides can quickly turn fatal.
Islands under a tropical storm watch now include St. Maarten, Montserrat, Antigua, Barbuda, St. Kitts, Nevis, Anguilla, Saba, St. Eustatius, Guadeloupe, St. Martin, and St. Barthelemy. A watch means tropical storm force winds are possible within 48 hours.